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Healing the Person vs. Killing the Disease

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By Susan Beausang / Divine Caroline

At no other point in history has medical science included the tools, technology, and pharmaceutical medicines that today not only prolong our lives but allow us to survive in the face of life-threatening disease. Our doctors and nurses study long and hard to master the tools of modern medical science so that they can direct our medical treatments with the deeply valuable goal of preserving our lives.

Such mastery often requires deep specialization, making Western medical specialists leading experts in their fields of specialization, but what have we given up in this quest for specialization? As a society and as a hemisphere, it seems we are gradually coming full circle in realization of what we have given up in our quest for more medical technologies and specialization. While grateful for what western medical science does for us, we are less and less satisfied with a medical paradigm that too often focuses on the disease and ignores the emotional being who is carrying the disease.

If you’ve ever been to a doctor, you know what it feels like to be patronized, to have your thoughts or feelings dismissed, or worse, to simply be handled in such a rush that you feel as if you’ve come and gone essentially unnoticed. It often seems that we are simply empty vessels or machines that either need fixing or do not. Once upon a time, our healers were not wed to specific organs, specialization, or treatments—they were wed to us, the patients. Among our most successful and trusted healers, their specialty was hearing us, seeing us, understanding us, and empathizing with us in a mutual effort to address our ailments. While few among us would opt to go back to a point in time or place in which disgruntled ancestral spirits might be identified as the cause for sudden paralysis, we do want to be listened to, to be seen as an individual with valid concerns or wishes. We want our medical specialists to acknowledge that while we may not be lung specialists, we know ourselves and our bodies better than they do. We want to be approached as humans, as adults—as real people first and patients second.

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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.